Green Tribunal sets aside nod to Jindal mining project

Mining

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has set aside the environmental clearance granted to a coal mining project of Jindal Steel and Power in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh on the grounds that the public hearing, a mandatory requirement under law, conducted by the company was a "farce".

The NGT Bench comprising Justice C V Ramulu and Prof R Nagendran concluded that the company had made a "mockery" of the public hearing and that "all norms required in conducting a smooth and fair procedure was given a go by".

It said it had gone through the video of the public hearing provided by the pollution control board and it showed the breaking of chairs, slogan shouting and use of force by the police to disperse the protesting crowd.

"This is not a case where there are a few ignorable procedural lapses in conducting the public hearing. This is a case of a mockery of public hearing, which is one of the essential parts of the decision making process in the grant of environmental clearance.... Therefore, we consider it appropriate to declare that the public hearing conducted in this case is a nullity in the eye of law and therefore is invalid," the Bench ruled.

The project involved the setting up of a 4-million tonne per annum mining plant and an associated pithead coal washery. The project was cleared by the Environment Ministry in May 2009. The public hearing which the NGT has found faults with was conducted a year earlier.

While setting aside the environmental clearance, the NGT order said the Environment Ministry was "at liberty to direct the appropriate authority to re-conduct a public hearing by taking all steps as required under the law".

Friday's order of the NGT comes just weeks after it suspended the environmental clearance granted to the POSCO iron and steel plant in Orissa.

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